Sunday, January 08, 2006


Raised in a family that, to use an old country phrase, wouldn't say shit if they had a mouth full, I always take an inordinate pleasure in expressions such as "history ho's," and "pimping a blog" and such, and all the mild ironies about "prostituting one's art."
Juvenile, I know. I just find them funny as all get out. Always will.
So much so that I have been a little amazed to find certain uberVictorian concepts about Art, Muses, and Mammon are still taken quite seriously by some individuals of the latest generation of writers. Some, I am sure, use the expressions merely as a convenient, sardonic - if a little cliched - shorthand.
Others, I am afraid, really mean it - fervently - and consider themselves acolytes of the divinity and the rest of us unholy heathens to be spurned at the foot of the godhead or cast out of the temple as money-grubbing apostates. They are pure. We are not.
These are the ones who really, really hate it when certain singular writers do not "suffer" ( in appropriate garrets or Mcjobs or been refused by 97 agents and 15 years of publishers) for their art, yet achieve the office of high priest, standing before the altar of the New York Times best-seller list. Some fervent apostles of Art would dearly like to see those successful types dendrata in the sacred grove - by their short hairs.
Money taints Art, they proclaim. Especially easy money, especially if it t'aint theirs.
I find this demand for poverty and rejection as a condition of acceptance amazing, considering the historical ability of religion to rake in the cash by producing a variety of prophets at the drop of a hat.
(We won't get into the modern pilgrim equivalents of "pieces of the true Cross.")
Yet in a curious amalgam of pagan apprenticeship, Christian sainthood, and union politics, there exists a belief that one should not become a magnus unless one has "paid one's dues."
How many times have you seen earnest representations about how one must be totally devoted to one's "art?"
Like, totally.
Even unto the last jot and tittle of the "em dash."
Or lamentations that the voice of the goddess is mute? That she has turned her face away from the faithful and writer Blocked his/her vision? Oh. Oh. The pain.
Then they write blogs and books about it.
Genre ennuyant.
Be careful.
They are Borg.


Sela Carsen said...

I've suffered! Paper cuts galore, I've suffered! The acute pangs of boredom as I stand in line at the post office, waiting to offer my submission to the Editors Most High, I've suffered! Even the agony of the Big R, I've suffered!

Daggone, I'm having fun. One round of chocolate on me and let's all do it again!

You're too funny, Bernita. I've met these people and I can't help but poke at them. Anyone who takes themselves so seriously deserves it. Maybe they're hoping to become famous posthumously, like Van Gogh. Who suffered. I'll look around at the next RWA conf for folks with bandages where their ears used to be.

Bernita said...

Hoot! Hoot! Hoot!
You got it, girlfriend!

MissWrite said...

Quote:especially if it t'aint theirs

The truth of the subject is right in that line. I find that sort of artsy angst a lot lie penis envy. The less you have, the more you b!tch about what others got.

MissWrite said...

oops... a lot 'LIKE'

Haven't had my first cup of coffee yet. I can't type.

Carla said...

I heard an interview with Bernard Cornwell once where he said he'd believe in writer's block when a nurse was allowed to ring up the hospital and be excused work on the grounds of nurse's block.

Bernita said...

Yep, Miss Write, some are convinced there's only so much pie to go around ( an economic concept based on jealousy and spite with which I do not agree) and if someone else gets some there's potentially less for them.
Typos: I don notice them.

Seems writers can manufacture the most ingenious excuses, Carla, and so many of them have been developed fairly recently a la Freud. They should light candles/burnt offerings at his grave site.

Sandra Ruttan said...

Oh Sela, stay away from the salt!

While it certainly isn't necessary to "suffer" to succeed, I think it can be handy to go through some bumps and snags on the road to success. Not because you need to, but because it keeps you humble.

But then, I don't think that's too bad in anything in life, not just the "arts". If everything in life's been handed to you, well, I think you're less likely to appreciate it.

But I have no idea why anyone would envy a penis. When the troops of abusers come along to torment you, just think of how much more it hurts when they kick you!

Bernita said...

My objection, Sandra, is not to the general concept that "suffering" may expand one's sensitivity/empathy; but that some attempt to box and specify the allowable forms of writerly "suffering"( oh my sainted aunt) into what amounts to a formal initiation or a hazing ritual for us "fags" (Kipling).

M. G. Tarquini said...

I strained my eyes once, staring at the screen...

Rick said...

I suspect there are two distinct forms of had-it-too-easy grumping. Since most writers have collected their stack of rejection letters, there has to be general annoyance at anyone whose first novel becomes a critically acclaimed bestseller.

Somewhat different, IMHO, is the stereotype of the kind of suffering writers are supposed to endure, and also the resentment of self-consciously literary writers at the success of "mere genre" authors, even if the latter have paid their dues for success. After all, mysteries, SF/F, romance, are all so vulgar!

Bernita said...

Nicely said, Rick.
M.G.,yes.The orbital socket wrench!

Tsavo Leone said...

It's not just in writing either...

The 'holier-than-thou' attitude is hardwired into the music scene too, particularly amongst the punk/hardcore (think Black Flag, Minor Threat, Crass, etc.) community, where politics and music don't so much rub shoulders as thrust into one another with great vigour!

In the more extreme cases your band is looked down upon for even playing at a venue that charges admission.

On the plus side though: those of us who have not yet been published can rest easy knowing that we are the true elite...

Bernita said...

Some of us, Tsavo, fear we are more e-lite than "elite."

Ric said...

Toiling in the trenches, getting annoyed when someone writes a horrible book, breaks all the rules we've been taught, and ends up atop the bestseller list for years.

I tend to be amused when said author then complains how hard it was, how wonderful it is that the world has rewarded his genious, and how sorry he feels for those who just 'don't have what it takes.'

Same author couldn't get anyone to publish his next book.

Some great cosmic whack going on there.

Nicely put, Bernita.

Sela did it the best. One can't take themselves too seriously.

Bernita said...

Thank you, dear guy.
One does tend to laugh - in a feeble, helpless kind of way - at the one-shot wonder, if he's Minander-snotty about it.

M. G. Tarquini said...

Same author couldn't get anyone to publish his next book.

I'm out of the loop, Ric, guess I've been too busy suffering over my most recent author?

Robyn said...

I forget now who said it (and isn't that a comment itself on fame) but this prolific writer said, "Yes, I write when the muse strikes me. And I make sure the muse strikes me every Monday through Friday from 8 to 5."

Sandra Ruttan said...

What? Only some kinds of suffering are allowed? Why didn't anyone tell me? I bet my grief with the mineral rights company after our gas reserves wasn't on that list. Dang it all, nobody sent me the bloody memo!

But I'm supposed to have an appreciation for suffering. I'm a mystery writer!

Okay, I'll go find my serious side before I come back...

Bonnie Calhoun said...

LOL. I never know what to expect when I come over here, Bernita!

Gloom, dispair and agony on me...Oh, uh...I've only sent out one query...Alright, laughter please!

I especially agree with Rick, on first novels...can anyone say Nicole!

And Ric...whereever you are, I had nothing to do with the penis comment! Yikes!

Savannah Jordan said...

"Resistance is futile."

If it is the Grumblers who are Borg, than I say f*ck 'em! :P

M. G. Tarquini said...

You now, Sela Carson is right.

We better be having fun, because at the moment, I sure as hell ain't doing it for the money.

Rick said...

Bonnie - Nicole doesn't really count, does she? It isn't as if she wrote her novel, after all; in fact she probably regards writing as only incidental to authorship.

MG Tarquini - So, is everyone having fun yet? Does anyone ever actually have fun? Well, yes, those times when the Muse is HOTT, but as Robyn's quote implies, most of the time she is just punching a time clock and we're having to drag every word out of her.

Bernita said...

I will maintain that writing is fun,Rick, whether in the form of some cold intellectual ecstacy or giggling at one's own wit, or the hopeful pleasure of sharing a creation.
Have no patience with those morose souls who mutter about agony, wrenching out their souls, bleeding, birth pangs, driven, tortured, etc.
It may be for some, but I wonder if it is not an affection so one can lay a guilt trip on the reader.

Chemical Billy said...

I'm a proud whore for my writing, will turn somersaults if it'll delight all five of my blog readers.

This post reminded me of an ex of mine who believed he had to seek out suffering in order to be an Artist. So he overpaid for the nastiest hole of an apartment he could find...seemed backward to me.

Bernita said...

Billy, you are a superior writer.